U.S. tourism reps say they’re up to the challenge of wooing cash-strapped Canadians

U.S. reps say they’re up to the challenge of wooing cash-strapped Canadians

TORONTO — Travel to the U.S. from Canada has dipped and the exchange rate makes cross-border travel a tough sell, but appreciation for the Canadian market was running high at the ninth annual Discover America Day.

Discover-America-Day-2015-4-NASA-astronaut-Don-Thomas Discover-America-Day-2015-3-Visit-Orlando-booth Discover America Day 2015 Discover America Day 2015The sell-out event took place yesterday in Toronto and included a talk from NASA astronaut Don Thomas, representing prime sponsor Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

The number of Canadians travelling to the U.S. was down 7.2% in July 2015 compared to the same month last year, for a year-to-date decrease of 6.3%.

The drive market, particularly sensitive to the exchange rate, has been hit the hardest. Air travellers – those visitors most likely to book through a travel agent – are weathering the storm a bit better. The year will likely almost level out with a 1% decrease, said Sana Keller, who helps represent Brand USA in Canada. Canada is still the biggest international market for the U.S., delivering $27.2 billion in travel spend annually, a 12.3% share of total international spending, she added.

Here are a few highlights from the day:

  • California welcomed more Canadians last year, up 4.4% over 2013. Lift has improved and new consumer ads will launch next week. The state’s focus remains on increasing Canadian visitation beyond the traditional gateways.
  • Brand USA has launched a new culinary guide, ‘Discover America: Flavours of the USA’ highlighting regional specialties and top picks in seven regions across the country. The guide is geared to both consumers and trade, says Brand USA rep Patrice Bell. Both the culinary guide and a destination guide can be ordered through Envoy. Brand USA is also getting ready to launch its “really big film” celebrating the 150th anniversary of the national state parks. An eight-part series narrated by Robert Redford will debut on the Travel Channel in February 2016. The film will also been shown in theatres.
  • Some 464,700 Canadians travelled to Texas in 2013. The 2014 numbers will be released this month. Lift to Texas got a big boost this year, with Air Canada’s new daily nonstop service between Toronto and Austin, and WestJet’s Calgary-Houston nonstop service six times weekly.
  • Visit Orlando is tapping into the social media trend with an open forum for travellers to share their trip highlights at OrlandoStories.com. New attractions include the giant observation wheel known as The Orlando Eye, now open. Downtown Disney Downtown has been reinvented as Disney Springs, while over at Universal Orlando, clients can check into Loews Sapphire Falls Resort starting in summer 2016.
  • Visit Savannah would love more long-haul drive traffic from Canada, says Director of Public Relations Erica Backus. “We typically get day-trippers on their way to Florida. We want to convert that to overnights,” she said. More Canadian snowbird travellers are becoming interested in Savannah too, she adds. Visit Savannah partners with Florida destinations including Amelia Island, St. Augustine and Golden Isles for select marketing efforts, as well as Hilton Head and Charleston.